ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - MARCH 22: John Terry warms up with team mates Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere and Wayne Rooney during the England training session ahead of their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against Wales, at London Colney on March 22, 2011 in St Albans, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

England Defeat Wales 2-0 In Euro 2012 Qualifier

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Wales Vs. England: Laser Show Annoys Fabio Capello, England

Fans shining a green laser into the eyes of several England players during Wales' 2-0 defeat against England did not go unnoticed by Fabio Capello. Although it's becoming almost commonplace to shine lasers at opposition players, the laser was even more obvious than usual, especially during substitutions, with both Arsenal's Jack Wilshere and West Ham United's Scott Parker were subject to the treatment as they marched off the pitch. While the dangers of laser pens are perhaps overstated, it's still clearly not a nice thing to be doing to players at a football match - as Fabio Capello said, it's rather unsporting.

Capello and other members of the England hierarchy have called for those responsible to be found and presumably paddled or something, but the FA has said it won't lodge an official complaint with their Welsh counterparts. It's doubtful that an investigation will find much anyway, as picking out one or two people in the crowd after the fact is something on the edge of impossible. Without people reporting other fans over behaviour like this, it's never going to be entirely weeded out, so education is probably the best solution here. That or bringing on Nicolas Anelka to blind the perpetrators with that reflective dome of his.


Wales Vs. England, Euro 2012 Qualifiers: England Coast To 2-0 Win

England beat Wales 2-0 in their Euro 2012 qualifier in Cardiff, leaving Wales bottom of qualifying group G. England, meanwhile, lead the group on goal difference after what was a reassuring display against an admittedly poor Wales side. After a disappointing display the last time they played a competitive international fixture, drawing 0-0 with Montenegro at Wembley in October, England moved to a 4-3-3 and it did its job more than effectively, annihilating Wales in the first half and allowing the visitors to coast to victory in the second.

Frank Lampard, who was playing alongside Jack Wilshere in the centre of the midfield ahead of Scott Parker, got England on the scoresheet in the 7th minute from the penalty spot after Ashley Young was fouled by Aston Villa teammate James Collins. The Chelsea midfielder stepped up, sent Wayne Hennessey the wrong way, and roleld the ball into the net for an early lead.

Said lead was doubled eight minutes later, and Young was once again involved. Glen Johnson released the Villa man down the right side with a pretty lofted pass, and Young was able to get to the byline to deliver a perfect low cross to Darren Bent, who swept into the roof of the net for a 2-0 lead. England looked more than capable of scoring more most of the rest of the match, and it wasn't until the second half that Wales really got going.

By then, though, the visitors had decided that the game was won, and spent much of the final 45 coasting. By end of the match, they had introduced Stewart Downing, James Milner, and Phil Jagielka (who played in the midfield for some reason) and switched to a more defensive 4-5-1 that invited a few long shots and corners for Wales, but even the hosts' spells of dominance were fairly sad affairs - Joe Hart didn't have a save to make and England continued to look threatening on the break.

All in all, a comfortable win. England should be beating teams like Wales, but in recent times they haven't looked comfortable against teams they should be beating, so it's hard to argue that this wasn't an improvement. Ashley Young was especially impressive, but everyone on the squad did their job effectively enough.

 For Gary Speed's Wales, they'll be disappointed not to have asked more questions of the England back line - Glen Johnson in particular is a vulnerability at right back. Would Gareth Bale have changed the game? Maybe, but probably not. The home side's problems were mostly in possession, where England's midfield dominated, and although Bale would have been a major threat on the counter they probably wouldn't have come close to earning a point even with the Tottenham Hotspur winger.


Wales Vs. England, Euro 2012 Qualifiers: Substitutions From Both Sides, Game Still 2-0

We've got substitutions from both benches. Gary Speed hauls off Andy King and Steve Morrison for Ched Evans and David Vaughan, which doesn't appear to be too much of a tactical shift. For Fabio Capello, it's James Milner for Wayne Rooney, who hasn't had a great game in front of the goal but has been more than happy to help out in midfield. James Milner won't have much going on in front of goal but will be even more enthusiastic in helping out on defence.

Meanwhile Joe Ledley is booked for dissent after saying a naughty word to the referee, joining Andrew Crofts in the book - amazingly Craig Bellamy did not for saying the exact same thing but louder several minutes later. Perhaps Olegario Benquerenca was simply too scared to book the notoriously volcanic striker. In truth it's been better from Wales this half, with a couple of opportunities falling to their forward players, but with England 2-0 and not doing much but coasting, it's not a big shock that the home side are seeing more of the ball.


Wales Vs. England, Euro 2012 Qualifiers: 2-0 England At Half Time

A ridiculously easy first half for England has produced two goals and more or less quieted a sold-out Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. A seventh minute penalty from Frank Lampard set the tone and Darren Bent made it two shortly thereafter. Both goals were set up by Aston Villa's Ashley Young, who won the penalty off club teammate James Collins and provided the cross for Bent's close-range tap-in eight minutes late. Wales have been more or less appalling, taking more than half an hour to conduct their first attack, and one rather gets the feeling that England are simply toying with their hosts. Admittedly, Wales did look a little more dangerous in the dying seconds of the half, but that's just sugarcoating a miserable performance.

So why are we getting England the powerhouse rather than England the disfucntional egotistic idiots? Despite what I imagine Chelsea fans will be saying, it's probably not John Terry being reinstated to the captaincy - instead, look to Scott Parker in the shielding role, which allows both Lampard and Jack Wilshere freedom to influence that game higher up the pitch. Playing three central midfielders is something England should have been doing for the past five years or so, and it's interesting to see how well it's working when it finally ends up happening.

Scott Parker Watch: If John Terry had that hair, he'd never have lost the armband.


Wales Vs. England, Euro 2012 Qualifiers: 2-0 England After Darren Bent Goal

Make that 2-0 to the visitors. England's new 4-3-3 shape is making the side, often derided as overrated, look absolutely magnificent. Wales, on the other hand, could probably be described as abject, but there wasn't a whole lot that they could have done about the goal that Darren Bent just scored. Ashley Young, who won the sixth minute penalty that led to the first goal, went haring down the right and was picked out by a long ball over the top from Glen Johnson.

The Aston Villa dangerman sprinted towards the touchline and sent in an inch-perfect low cross to teammate Darren Bent, who lashed into the net as though he was quite keen on putting a new hole in it. For Wayne Hennessey, trying to stop that would have been like stepping onto a busy motorway without wearing any trousers, a metaphor which only works if you don't think about it too hard.

Anyway, it's 2-0 England and they're working to extend that lead even further, with Wayne Rooney the latest to have a try on goal, again from an Ashley Young cross. It all goes a little wrong for the Manchester United man, though, as he mishits his volely and sends it out for a goal kick.


Wales Vs. England, Euro 2012 Qualifiers: Frank Lampard Penalty Puts England Up 1-0

Frank Lampard, wearing the #7 shirt rather than his more familiar #8 has made it 1-0 to England very early after Ashley Young won a (soft) penalty off Aston Villa teammate James Collins. John Terry had gone on a swashbuckling run up the heart of the pitch, and as Collins attempted to cover both the England captain and Young he slipped. Terry took advantage of the situation to pass the ball to Young, and in Collins' attempts to recover he clipped his clubmate's ankles, which was more than enough incentive for Young to go down and the referee to point to the spot.

Lampard took the kick, rolling it rather cooly into the net after sending Wayne Hennessey the wrong way. it was one of those penalties that would have looked really really stupid had the goalkeeper not dived in the opposite direction, but England are leading Wales nonetheless.

Scott Parker Hair Watch: Still awesome.


Wales Vs. England, Euro 2012 Qualifiers: Wales Lineup

England aren't the only side to be doing strange things with their starting eleven in Cardiff. Wales too (there wasn't a third option) have been making their share of odd lineup decisions, with manager Gary Speed inexplicably preferring Norwich City's Andrew Crofts to Blackpool's inspirational midfielder David Vaughan. With Gareth Bale already ruled out of the match with a hamstring injury, two of the team's best players aren't in the lineup. The upset's looking a little less likely right now.

Wayne Hennessey starts in goal for Wales, who look like they'll be running a 4-5-1 with Steve Morison as the lone striker. Chris Gunter, James Collins, Danny Collins and Mass Effect heroine Ashley Williams comprise the back line, while the midfield five features Andy Crofts, Joe Ledley, Craig Bellamy, Aaron Ramsey and Andy King. Ramsey, 20, will be captaining the side.

Wales (4-5-1): Hennessey, Gunter, J Collins, Williams, D Collins, Crofts, Ledley, Bellamy, Ramsey, King, Morison.

Substitutes: Boaz Myhill, Neal Eardley, Danny Gabbidon, David Vaughan, Joe Allen, Simon Church, Ched Evans.


Wales Vs. England, Euro 2012 Qualifiers: England Lineup

Fabio Capello's odd decisions don't simply extend to throwing around the captaincy as though it means nothing to anyone - the England manager looks as though he's experimenting with an entirely new shape against Wales at the Millennium stadium today. Three central midfielders have been included in his starting lineup: Jack Wilshere, Frank Lampard, and Scott Parker, which would seem to imply... well, nobody really knows. Based on personnel, England could play a 4-4-2 midfield diamond with Ashley Young as the trequartista, or they could use Young as a winger and push Wayne Rooney outside as well.

Then again, Capello might have just decided that Parker is a left midfielder. Raise your hands if that would shock anyone. Joe Hart will start in goal, shielded in front by a centre back partnership of John Terry (who is of course wearing the armband) and Michael Dawson. The fullbacks will be Glen Johnson on the right - how glad he is not to be facing the menace of Gareth Bale - and Ashley Cole on the left, and nobody's really sure where Wayne Rooney, Darren Bent, and Ashley Young will actually end up. Oh, and Matt Jarvis doesn't even make the bench, which makes this not his debut after all.

England (4-1-2-3, maybe): Hart; Cole, Terry, Dawson, Johnson; Parker; Lampard, Wilshere; Rooney, Bent, Young.

Substitutes: Rob Green, Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott, James Milner, Stewart Downing, Jermain Defoe, Andy Carroll.


Harry Redknapp Denies Gareth Bale Injured With Tottenham

Gareth Bale being out of the suddenly-far-less-compelling match between England and Wales has been blamed on a pre-existing hamstring condition that Bale had been suffering with club side Tottenham Hotspur, but that explanation has been called into doubt after Spurs manager Harry Redknapp has given his opinion on the whole situation. That opinion, amazingly, is that the Welsh FA is making things up:

He got through 90 minutes against West Ham on Saturday no problem.

He finished the game and didn't go into the medical room after the game and report any problems at all. He joined up with the Wales team and now he has got a tight hamstring and they are obviously afraid if he plays he may tear it.

If he doesn't feel he's fit to play and the Welsh people don't seem to think he's fit to play, then he's obviously not fit.

That's a less than thinly veiled accusation that Wales have broken the man widely believed to be Tottenham's best player. Bale's been hit with injuries a little too often for the London's sides liking this year, and they won't be happy that the 21 year-old has picked up a hamstring injury on international duty (at least it's not a friendly). Meanwhile, Wales boss Gary Speed is continuing to claim that the injury was present before Bale joined up with the squad.

I think you can tell on scans now, with the fluid and the blood that it was an injury from last week. I am sure he will play next week. I'm no expert but I am sure it is only a 10-day thing.

If it's not a 10-day thing, expect some... words out of the Tottenham camp, especially with their first Champions League quarter final match against Real Madrid coming up in a little over a week.


Gareth Bale To Miss England Qualifier With Hamstring Injury

Wales winger Gareth Bale will miss Saturday's key Euro 2012 qualifier against England with a hamstring injury. The Welsh FA released a statement confirming several earlier reports that the 21-year-old would miss the match after Bale was unable to train on Wednesday and now Wales will be without their top player for their clash against the Three Lions at Millenium Stadium.

"Due to a hamstring problem, Gareth Bale has had to withdraw from the Wales squad to face England," a Football Association of Wales statement said. "He felt tight last week during training with his club. After playing 90 minutes on Saturday he felt some muscle tightness."

"Initially, this was expected to be muscle soreness after playing his first game. On joining-up with the Welsh squad he was kept off his feet in training for two days to recover. As he still felt tight in the warm-up on Tuesday, Gareth was pulled-out of the session."

"He did not train at all on Wednesday and was sent for a scan. The scan revealed that Gareth Bale picked-up his injury last week."

The Tottenham winger made a name for himself with several scintillating performances to help Spurs qualify for the UEFA Champions League last season and his top form this season elevated his status to one of the world's best left-sided players. He was expected to be the focal point of the Wales attack on Saturday and a constant thorn in the England side, but now the team will have to go on without him.

Bale had only just returned from a six-week layoff due to a back injury. While no statement on his prognosis has been made, the injury is not feared to be serious and the expectation is that he will return for Tottenham's next league match on April 2 in advance of Spurs' April 5 Champions League match against Real Madrid.


Euro 2012: England To Face Wales In Home Country Showdown

The international break is here again and that means if you're lucky your country is playing in a game that means something. In England's case, it's the Euro 2012 qualifiers against Gareth Bale and Wales on Saturday March 26th at 3 PM GMT (10 AM EST). Wales, who are interesting in seemingly always having one generational winger (Ryan Giggs and now Bale) and very little else, are rooted to the bottom of qualifying group G, having achieved zero points and just one goal from their three matches so far, while England are behind Montenegro in second place, although a win against the hosts would see them overtake the leaders on goal differential.

England, of course, go into the match at Cardiff's Millenium Stadium on the back of yet more controversy over the captaincy, with manager Fabio Capello opting to reinstate John Terry thirteen months after the Chelsea defender was stripped of the honour following an alleged affair with Vanessa Perroncel. The expected media firestorm over the affair (the captaincy one, not the old one) has indeed materialised, although it does seem rather more confined to the minds of journalists and reporters than they'd have liked.

The second most compelling story around Capello's team is what they do with young Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere, who in truth is far more suited to a three man central midfield than being deployed in a flat 4-4-2. Since England will not truck moving away from a system that's a mere ten years obsolete, however, everyone can agree that Wilshere is probably not going to be anywhere near his best as a holding player behind Frank Lampard. Something has to give, and it'll be interesting to see just what that is.

The third is Matt Jarvis being called up for the first time, and I have nothing to say about that apart from the fact that Jarvis is really a rather excellent little player, criminally underrated on account of playing for Wolverhampton, and fully deserving of the honour.

As for Wales, they're underdogs but perfectly happy about that - they know that they can beat an underperforming England on their day and since 'England' and 'underperforming' have been virtually synonymous as of late the Welsh do indeed stand a chance. Alongside Tottenham winger Bale the host have a surprisingly strong midfield featuring David Vaughan and further bolstered by the return of Arsenal's Aaron Ramsey from a broken leg. It wouldn't be a huge shock if they managed to outplay England in the middle of the park.

Bale himself is very confident, as shown by several quotes via the BBC:

We're quietly confident in the camp that we've got enough to pull off an upset.

People might laugh at us but we fully believe that we've got some good players here and we'll be fully prepared and ready to take it to England

He's probably right too - England should underestimate their hosts at their peril. The match is too important for the visitors to simply assume they'll win based on superior firepower, and if Capello's side don't careful they're going to get a black eye.

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